The characters in Punch find themselves in weird, surreal situations that only take four or five pages to leave an atmosphere and a lasting sense of unease in the reader.
Opener Mask looks at a Mask, grotesque and seemingly malevolent when it seems to follow lead character Sarah around her holiday home. In Lick, Paul find his hand developing a tongue just after he turns thirty, and meets a girl that could be the one. It is the everyday details in this story, the hopes and fears of worst dates, before revealing a body horror that would shock most Doctors, let alone potential girlfriends.
In Pope Penis IX, holiday makers find out about the deliberate vandalism that a former Pope carried out on statues, to maintain public decency. The title story is an overheard argument, whilst The Wrong Coat follows the after-math of a party, when taking the wrong coat, and the small changes in someone’s life that can result from a small mistake.
There is something of the writing of Raymond Carver here, and maybe something of Angela Carter. The stories are all surreal, but strongly grounded in a reality, characters are well drawn, and all of the stories fit together. There is nothing in the collection that seems stylistically or thematically out of place.
If you like short, short stories that leave an atmosphere of unease then Punch is a book well worth the investigation.
Reviewed by Ben Macnair
Published March 2019, Cinnamon Press
Paperback, ISBN 978-1788640428